Lay’s Classic Burger Flavor Chips

Lay's Classic Burger

Lay’s Classic Burger Flavor chips are actually the Wonka Gum of chips (in contrast to the Bolognese Hula Hoops). I don’t know what sorcery produced them, but they taste exactly like McDonald’s cheeseburgers.  I think they took the pickle-flavored chip, which Belgium does very well, and added mustard and celery (according to the ingredients list) to somehow replicate the first bite of a McDonald’s burger (provided that the pickle isn’t hanging off the side of the burger like Jack on that door in the Atlantic- THERE WAS ROOM).  Lay’s chose not to include a strong smoky flavor, like many of the meat-flavored chips use to reproduce meat flavor. The chips work well without the smoke.

When I bought these, I saw two women buying large bags for themselves. I understand why now.  I imagine that if you crushed these and put them on an actual burger, biting into the burger might create a junk food worm hole. Maybe these chips are like McDonald’s spooky action at a distance. Although usually I’d refer to McDonald’s spooky action at a distance as my ability to actually gain weight while simultaneously eating McNuggets. (“Whaaaa? Why don’t my pants fit? Must be physics…there are so many things we’ll never understand about the universe!” *blithely walks into KFC while looking at workout videos on Instagram*).


Croky Hula Hoops- Bolognese flavor

Well, dear readers, it’s been too long, so….I’m bringing blogging back.

I’ve actually developed a stash of unhealthy foreign snacks, some with names I don’t understand (Flemish- what a language. It’s like the Magic Eye of languages- if you stare at it long enough you start to see words you’re familiar with).  I’m going to renew my public service describing this cornucopia of junk. Junkucopia.

My next two posts will review junk foods designed to taste like distinct dishes (a la Wonka gum). First up are these “Bolognese” flavored Hula Hoops made by Croky in Belgium.  Belgium is home to a diverse array of uniquely flavored snacks. You can choose from pickle-flavored chips, good ‘ol continental paprika chips, Cheetos and Doritos in unfamiliar shapes, and whatever these are (review forthcoming).

(Doesn’t that parrot remind you of Christopher Walken as The Continental?)

The obvious first question is whether these hoops actually tasted like Bolognese sauce.  Would a weary traveler looking forward to room service spaghetti find these as comforting?  The answer is no.  They’re weirdly smoky and remind me more of paprika chips than Bolognese. However, I should note that the definition of “Bolognese” has been a subject of some debate in the UK as of late.

According to the trash news Apple puts at the bottom of my work phone news feed, Mary Berry (not to be confused with Marion Barry), recommended that Bolognese could be prepared with “shocking” ingredients like cream. Considering that English grocery stores think heavy cream is the second ingredient behind avocados in guacamole, I find this complaining a bit…rich.  I reviewed this controversial recipe, and it looked delicious. I understand that Italian chefs want to maintain the purity of their traditional dishes, but I also support the integration of other ingredients. I wonder how these outraged chefs would react to the Olive Garden’s menu, developed at the Tuscan Institute – progenitor of such innovations as Lasagna Fritta and Crispy Risotto Bites (pictured below).  I’m all for preserving cultural heritage, but I can’t lie and pretend that I don’t also enjoy faux Italian food.  I also make nachos with a roux. Don’t judge me.

Olive Garden

p.s. I miss you, Olive Garden, you and your unlimited salad and breadsticks.

Tayto Waffles- Bacon Flavor


In honor of the pig farmer convention responsible for a lack of hotel rooms in Dublin, I’m trying some new pork flavored snacks fresh from the Emerald Isle.  Despite assurances that no one in Ireland actually calls it that, I can tell you that Ireland really is an Emerald Isle.  It’s vividly green- if I were choosing Irish green on PowerPoint I’d look for the richest, brightest green and then choose whichever green is even more vivid than that.  Luckily, my praise today is not just reserved for Ireland’s glistening green, but also for these bacon flavored Tayto Waffles.

tayto 2

(What’s with all the ink on my hand?  These pictures are giant because I’m too tired to fix the size- so please enjoy this close-up of my cuticle.)

The team at Tayto really nailed the perfect texture- it’s grand, as they do actually say in Ireland. Not too dense, not too airy and fragile, not so scratchy that they hurt your mouth (this is a recurring issue for me). They deliver a very satisfying crunch and are the size of flattish lacrosse nets designed to just cover your tongue.  I can’t believe I just referenced lacrosse in that context, but it’s really the best way to describe them…and I feel super cool bringing up lacrosse, as if I worked at Abercrombie and Fitch in 2002.  

Like many meat flavored carbs, the suggestion of bacon is strongest in the scent. Otherwise these are kind of bacony, and very savoury.  The aftertaste doesn’t overstay its welcome. They’re very good, and I’d eat them again. 

Brannigans Roast Beef & Mustard

I’ve developed a bit of a reputation as a junk food hoarder at work.  I “joke” that my drawer full of snacks- which includes regular Lays, Combos, and the oh-so-delicious birthday cake flavored Oreos– will come in handy when we can’t leave the office because of an emergency and we have to ration food.  LULZ!

Fortunately, my colleagues seem pretty supportive of my junk habit (maybe because of all the rationing jokes- they’re trying to curry favor ahead of time).  Some have even graciously contributed to the drawer.  My colleague John, for example, gave me a bag of Brannigans Roast Beef & Mustard crisps.


I like these a lot- I don’t think I’ve had any chips like this in ‘Murica (although I have tried pretzel snacks like this).  The mustard flavor is strong, like horseradish, but not so strong that your nose is assaulted.  I’m not actually sure if I taste roast beef, but they’re still really good.  Not every British beef-flavored carbohydrate experiment is going to pan out.  Sometimes failure leads to something better- like penicillin, or Viagra.

Branigans2(I don’t make her pose like this.  This just happens.)

Most of the time, I’m fixated on getting American snacks here, like my beloved Combos.  I would take these back to the homeland though, because I think my parentals would enjoy them.  I often bring them European mustard, because that’s a normal thing to do.  Maybe we could eat these chips with hot dogs on the Fourth of July.  AMERICA!

Takis Crunchy Fajitas (cumpleaños del padre edición)


IMG_2641 (7)

(to NB, with love- your canine granddaughter, demonstrating an inherited interest in junk)

Es el birthday de mi padre, so I thought it would be appropriate to review one of the savory snacks he gave me during my last visit to the homestead.  I’d never heard of Takis brand before, but I suspect that’s because of my lack of familiarity with Latin American snacks. These snacks are made by Barcel, a unit of the Mexican multinational company Grupo Bimbo, which I like to pronounce like a Spanish Olympics announcer (or a soccer announcer).  I would like to thank mi padre por todas las snacks deliciosas.  Espero que tenga un feliz cumpleaños!


Now let’s talk turkey about taste- except these do not taste anything like turkey.   These little tortilla tubes are saturated in one of my favorite flavors- chili and lime.


(This little lady is certainly excited about snacks…am I talking about myself or the dog? hmmm)

Takis snacks are masa flour-based, which gives them an authentic Latin American flavor. They’re just spicy enough to burn the back of your throat, but not so spicy that you hurt your tongue or start screaming for milk.  MSG is in the ingredient list, so even though your mouth has been slightly assaulted by chili and citrus, you keep eating them because you are COMPELLED to do so by your taste buds.  I like these snacks, but I think I might prefer some lighter (i.e. less dense) chili/lime snacks, like the HEB hijole cheese balls.

In contrast to these authentic-ish Latin American tortilla rolls, I also ate some Belgian Doritos-brand nacho cheese dip this evening.  What do you call cheese that isn’t yours? NACHO CHEESE!  This nacho cheese was almost not mine, because I almost left it under my seat on the Eurostar train.

After my colleague gently teased me about rolling up to the train with an excess of bags, which I shoved into my suitcase like a Russian nesting doll, I thought “wait a second- I actually had one more bag, and it contains 23 Euros worth of junk purchased at the train station.”  At that point I abruptly left my colleagues (and boss, because I’m a classy professional) and ran back to the train to retrieve my snacks.  I’m lucky that jumping back into the train didn’t cause an incident.  In the U.S., it may have been a “see something, say something” situation.  I can imagine it now. “Yeah officer, I saw this woman in business attire with several bags force herself back on the train at the station….yeah officer, she picked up a bag, I’m pretty sure I saw some Doritos in there. But something else definitely looked like glass- like a yellow substance….no, no color I’ve ever seen in nature. I don’t really know what it was, to be honest…but there seemed to be a lot of it.”


Southern Recipe (?) Cheesy Jalapeno Flavored Curls

Well, there’s no way around it.  I have to admit that I’ve neglected my blog. Nay, I’ve neglected my passion for junk.  My steady diet of kale and blueberry smoothies, moderately healthy lunches, and reasonable-ish dinners needs to be shaken up.  In the words of a bunch of randos on twitter circa 2013- YOLO.

So what jostled me awake and out of my junk food hibernation? What preservative-laden ambrosia tickled my taste buds?  The answer is “Southern Recipe Cheesy Jalapeno Flavored Curls.”  The question mark in the title alludes to my uncertainty as to whether Southern Recipe was the brand name or a qualifier.  I’ve since realized it’s a brand name, but I’m keeping the question mark, mostly because I was pretty excited about the prospect of these being Southern, maybe because I thought they’d be extra fried or something.*

southern recipe southern recipe1

It’s a little like ET. In honor of the water on Mars.

While they’re not extra fried, they are extra delicious.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I love unique cheese curl varieties.  These cheese curls make me want to run to the border…of the United Kingdom…to take a flight to Mexico.  These curls are coated with flecks of jalapeno (and an uncertain amount of MSG, the molecular equivalent of falling into a basket of freshly washed microfiber blankets…if those blankets were also made of cheese and in your mouth).  The bit of green pepper spice, paired with sticky cheddar dust, takes these cheese curls out of the plain ‘ol cheesy poof category and into the hallowed space occupied by H-E-B Hijole cheese balls and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.  I won’t try to pick a winner in that bout; the textures of each are too different.  Maybe one day I’ll create a March Madness style junk food tournament.  In the meantime, I’m just glad to be back in the game.

*By the way, I noticed on the “Southern Recipe” home page that their slogan is “For Men Who Work Hard and Snack Harder.”  I liked these cheese curls; they were awesome.  I’m a lady.  Also, I’ve tasted harder snacks.

giphy snow white

Brownie Filled Pretzel Nuggets

brownie filled pretzel nuggets

I’ve been getting a lot of requests/demands/exhortations to write reviews on sweets- ranging from candy to cookies and every teeth-rotter in between. I hadn’t complied because I felt that the world of savory snacks is wide and offers almost limitless choices. I’ve recently changed my mind, because I’ve realized that sometimes salty and sweet is a great combination (said every girl who’s ever thought “I want, like, a bad boy who sends his mom flowers every week and always texts me back”).

My first foray into the world of sweets is CVS’s Brownie Filled Pretzel Nuggets. Truth be told, I went to CVS looking for their Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets, but CVS only offered them in very large quantities- perhaps because they’re so delicious that people just go ahead and buy them in bulk. Given that I was traveling, and didn’t want to haul around a pound of peanut butter pretzel nuggets, I opted for the bag of brownie nuggets.

I enjoyed the brownie nuggets- the brownie filling was rich and the pretzels were sufficiently salty (although they could be a tiiiiny bit saltier). My only qualm is that I tasted a bit too much flour- more so than a regular pretzel. The exterior of the pretzel is normal and salty, and the excessive flour flavor seems to come from the interior layer- the mantle of the nugget, if you will. The concept is promising, so maybe I’ll look for better brownie pretzel nuggets, if they exist. I can close my eyes and imagine a really rich bit of brownie, with tiny bits of gooey chocolate, covered in a salty pretzel. Like the reformed bad boy, or the Mr. Darcy of pretzels.

H-E-B Hijole Cheese Balls and H-E-B Reduced Flavor Intense Cheese Puffs

Sometimes it’s hard to get your family to support your dreams. Your family might dissuade you from flying over the Sahara in a hot air balloon, or opening a refuge for troubled baboons. Luckily for me, my family supports my dream to eat junk food and then write about it. My parents are my champions- this was abundantly clear when my dad presented me with various bags of Texas junk upon my arrival at the homestead.
While the UK excels at meat-flavored carbohydrate-based snacks, the U.S., particularly the Southwestern U.S., excels at cheese-flavored snacks. I’ve noticed that a cornucopia of cheese snacks are available in Texas, and the Texas grocery chain H-E-B’s cup of runneth over.

H-E-B is a cheesy poof innovator. A couple of years ago, I tasted their buffalo blue cheese poofs. I’m not usually a fan of blue cheese, but those poofs are delish, because the buffalo flavor is more pronounced than the blue cheese flavor. (I suspect that real blue cheese flavor is difficult to replicate in a processed cheesy poof). On this trip to Texas, I had the pleasure of trying H-E-B’s Hijole Cheese Balls and their Reduced Sodium Intense Cheese Puffs.
Regarding the latter, while I know it’s healthy to watch salt intake, sometimes watching salt intake has an inverse relationship with general happiness, so my natural inclination is to be wary of reduced sodium junk food.  However, it’s obviously great for people on strict diets. These snacks focus on the rich, buttery flavor of cheese, rather than the savory tang imparted by good ‘ol American sodium. I didn’t mind the buttery flavor, but my family wasn’t enthusiastic about the lack of salt. These puffs were tasty, but not a huge draw.
On the other hand, the Hijole Cheese Balls are muy fantastico (nb- apparently Hijole Cheese Balls translates to Wow Cheese Balls, which is more than appropriate in this case). They combine the lime, cheese, and chili flavors that help make Mexican food delicious. They’re salty, cheesy, and slightly spicy. They have a perfect cheesy poof consistency- not rough enough to grate your palate, but not mushy enough to dissolve in your mouth like one of those biodegradable packing peanuts (I know I’m not the only person who’s been dared to eat one of those peanuts).
I’m sad that the Hijole Cheese Balls aren’t more widely available. Maybe I should import them into the UK…or maybe not, because the British may not be ready for Texas-strength cheesy poof firecrackers.

Walker’s Pops- Melted Cheese & Crispy Bacon

Afternoon doldrums hit the open office.  Listless workers slouch into their chairs, defying ergonomics.  Our protagonist initiates a mental snack calculus.  She already went to Pret A Manger today.  Twice in one day? The employees might become too familiar with her habits.  She thought “what about Starbucks?,” but then realized that the Frappuncino happy hour promotion would likely prove too tempting.  After a moment of reflection, she realized the truest option, the most hewed to her own nature, would be to go to Tesco and get some juuuunnnnkkkk.

And that is the story of how I ended up being reacquainted with my old friend Diet Dr. Pepper and meeting my new friend Walker Pops.

diet dr p

Walker Pops fall into the category of “British crisps designed to taste like meat.”  There are a surprising number of crisps in this category.  These are slightly different because of the “melted cheese” element.  The Pops smell like bacon, and the initial impression is bacony, but that’s followed by a lingering cheese flavor.  I should note that the ingredients do not list a particular type of cheese.  Instead, “melted cheese & crispy bacon seasoning” is the fourth ingredient.  Weirdly enough, they do taste specifically like melted cheese.  Now THAT is science.

I enjoyed these savory meat chips, and I’d eat them again (particularly after a few beers).

In related news, Dr. Pepper just really gets me, you know?  We should hang out more often, even if I have to walk all the way (i.e. 50 feet) down to Tesco to engage his company.  He’s changed his name to Dr. Pepper Zero in the UK.  I’m worried about his self-esteem.

Combos- Pizzeria Pretzel

This isn’t so much a review as it is a tribute.  I love Combos.  I’m trying to refrain from using expletives in this blog, but I need to underscore that I [insert expletive here] love Combos.  They are one of my favorite snacks, and probably my number one snack for car trips.  Maybe that’s why they’re the Official Cheese-Filled Snack of NASCAR.  I have a stockpile of Combos, pictured here:

combos stockpile

I hide this arsenal in a cabinet to keep it away from enemies…and by “enemies,” I mean myself and my appetite.  Although many people think snacks like Combos are designed to withstand nuclear attack, I know this is incorrect.  Combos have a shelf-life, and hiding them in a cabinet isn’t really doing me any good.  I will save a few packages though, because I think they’d make great currency in an emergency barter economy.

combos pizzeria

There are several varieties of Combos, including nacho cheese and pretzel and 7-layer dip.  Right now I’m eating the pizzeria pretzel type.  These flavor names make a lot of promises- 7 layers of dip flavor in one small pretzel cylinder?  An entire cornucopia of pizzeria flavors in a tiny pretzel shell?  How can this be?  Somehow, the snack engineers at Mars make it work.  The pizzeria pretzel flavor doesn’t exactly taste like a pizza, although it’s not supposed to taste exactly like a pizza.  It’s supposed to taste like a combination of a pizza and a pretzel.  It achieves this flavor synergy.

combos pizzeria 1

First, your taste buds encounter a delicious salty pretzel, and then you break through to the tangy cheese filling.  It’s a wonderful combination of taste and texture.  And the nacho cheese and pretzel Combos are even better, in my opinion.  The only bad thing about Combos (other than the saturated fat, blah blah blah), is that they’re so delicious they tempt you to overeat like some sort of pretzel siren.  Then you feel kind of gross. That’s why my stash consists of small bags.  I don’t trust myself.

p.s. I just found out that there are two new sweet flavors of Combos: Sweet & Salty Caramel Creme Pretzel and Vanilla Frosting Pretzel.  Boom.  Mind blown.  But will these become the Official Sugar-Filled Snack of NASCAR?  I feel like there might be some stiff competition for that crown.